Apart from his craziest advisers and a few corporate giants who’ve been accused of gaming the system, it’s safe to say that no one likes Donald Trump’s tariffs. In fact, one might go so far as to say that people think they absolutely blow, likely because they’ve led to higher prices for consumers, increased costs for U.S. companies, losses and layoffs for manufacturers, and an effective punch in the gut for farmers, to say nothing of how they’ve alienated some of our closest international allies. What’s more, whatever benefits they’ve supposedly produced have been wildly exaggerated. Unfortunately, none of these dispiriting facts make for a very stirring speech at Trump’s patented Make America Great Again rallies. Which is why the former real-estate developer and fake-successful businessman has turned to Plan B: inventing a bunch of C.E.O. buddies who have nothing but glowing things to say about his trade policies.
Yes, like a pre-teen with a “girlfriend in Canada” who no one’s ever met, the president of the United States has taken to referencing a number of extremely powerful, unnamed executives who universally praise his ideas. The White House hasn’t yet identified any of them, but rest assured they’re totally, 100 percent real. At a rally in Tampa last month, he referred to a “chief executive officer” of “one of the greatest companies in the world,” whose firm has been negatively affected by the president‘s use of tariffs, but who—unlike the company heads who’ve begged him to call off his trade wars—has nevertheless told Trump, “Mr. President, keep going. You’re doing the right thing.” (Presumably this mystery man is also the one encouraging him to keep it up with the Just for Men.)
These complimentary figures have cropped up in international negotiations, too. A day before European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker paid a visit to the White House, Trump claimed his Art of the Deal–style skills had forced Europe to come to the negotiating table with its tail between its legs. “They didn’t want to change. I said, ‘O.K. Good. We’re going to tariff your cars,”’ Trump said at a conference on July 24. “They said, ‘When can we show up? When can we be there? Would tomorrow be O.K.?”’ Only: a European official told Bloomberg that the meeting was agreed upon when Juncker and Trump met at the G7 summit, and that the administration invited Juncker to the White House. The president has also taken to citing a conversation he supposedly had with an unnamed official from the “highest echelons of China,” who apparently told him that the U.S. trade deficit with China skyrocketed because prior administrations didn’t put up a fight when the Chinese government put trade barriers in place (those unidentified officials really have it out for Trump’s predecessor). “One of the great people of China said, ‘There was never anybody to talk to in the United States,’” Trump told CNBC last month. “‘Nobody would ever complain until you came along.’ Me. And they said, ‘Now, you’re doing more than complaining.’”
Weirdly, though, not everyone is buying that the people in these anecdotes actually, y’know, exist. Trump has something of a track record for embellishment—on the campaign trail, he repeatedly mentioned his friend “Jim” to argue that immigration had hurt France. Jim is “a very, very substantial guy” who stopped taking yearly trips to Paris due to immigration-related terrorism and crime, Trump claimed during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last year. Naturally, Trump didn’t provide a last name for his very substantial friend who was forced by those damn immigrants to give up fresh baguettes and authentic coq au vin, and the White House has declined to identify him. “Many of these anecdotes have either not been verified or they’re unverifiable,” Robert Rowland, a professor of presidential rhetoric at Kansas University, told Bloomberg. “When he doesn’t have hard data to cite, he goes to these kinds of anecdotes. When he doesn’t have real anecdotes, it appears that he finds his own.” Eric Altbach, a former deputy assistant U.S. trade Representative for China affairs during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama years, called outright bulls–t on Trump’s “highest echelons of China” official. “If China implemented a policy that harmed a U.S. exporter or a U.S. investor or U.S. farmers, the odds of nobody noticing and nobody saying anything about it and it sailing by unchallenged by senior U.S. officials are approximately zero,” he said.
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Trump’s military parade comes in a touch over budget
What’s an extra $80 million—on top of the initial $12 million—between friends? Taxpayers know how important this is to him!
The parade, slated for Nov. 10, is estimated to cost $92 million, the official said. The figure consists of $50 million from the Pentagon and $42 million from interagency partners such as the Department of Homeland Security. An initial estimate last month pegged the prospective cost for the parade at $12 million . . . The $92 million cost estimate includes security, transportation of parade assets, aircraft, as well as temporary duty for troops. The official also noted that while the size and scope of the military parade can still shift, the plans currently include approximately eight tanks, as well as other armored vehicles, including Bradleys, Strykers and M113s.
Trump, of course, first got the idea for a military parade when he visited France in July 2017 and, after watching the Bastille Day festivities, decided he had to get himself one of those, too, despite the significant cost and the fact that the U.S. has not held a major military parade in D.C. since 1991. “It was a tremendous day, and to a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4 in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron, adding that America’s would obviously have to be bigger because Fred Trump never hugged his son as a child. “We’re going to have to try to top it, but we have a lot of planes going over and a lot of military might, and it was really a beautiful thing to see, and representatives from different wars and different uniforms,” he said.
Corporate C.E.O.s did pretty well for themselves in 2017
Wage slaves? Not so much, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (emphasis ours):
This report looks at trends in chief executive officer (C.E.O.) compensation, using two different measures. The first measure includes stock options realized (in addition to salary, bonuses, restricted stock grants, and long-term incentive payouts). By this measure, in 2017 the average C.E.O. of the 350 largest firms in the U.S. received $18.9 million in compensation, a 17.6 percent increase over 2016. The typical worker’s compensation remained flat, rising a mere 0.3 percent. The 2017 C.E.O.-to-worker compensation ratio of 312-to-1 was far greater than the 20-to-1 ratio in 1965 and more than five times greater than the 58-to-1 ratio in 1989 (although it was lower than the peak ratio of 344-to-1, reached in 2000). The gap between the compensation of C.E.O.s and other very-high-wage earners is also substantial, with the C.E.O.s in large firms earning 5.5 times as much as the average earner in the top 0.1 percent.
Rudely, the authors of the report had the audacity to suggest that the C.E.O.s didn’t actually do anything to earn last year’s largesse:
Higher C.E.O. pay does not reflect correspondingly higher output or better firm performance . . . Over the last several decades, C.E.O. pay has grown much faster than profits, the pay of the top 0.1 percent of wage earners, and the wages of college graduates. C.E.O.s are getting more because of their power to set pay, not because they are more productive or have special talents or more education. If C.E.O.s earned less or were taxed more, there would be no adverse impact on output or employment.
Luckily, there appears to be no risk of C.E.O.s being taxed more anytime soon, so breathe easy, everyone.
Federal regulators have some questions for Elon Musk
Specifically, the Securities and Exchange Commission would like to know if the Tesla C.E.O. intentionally misled investors when he claimed he had “funding secured” to take the company private, in an effort to hurt short sellers by driving up the stock price. According to The Wall Street Journal, regulators are trying to determine whether Musk presented the board with a firm deal before sending his tweet. A Tesla spokesman, Kamran Mumtaz, responded to the Journal’s request for comment with the emoji of a smiling face and waving hands and “declined to elaborate on what it meant or to comment further.”
Mnuchin Says Turkey Faces More Sanctions If Pastor Not Released (Bloomberg)
DoubleLine exec Jeffrey Sherman nervous trade war could turn into currency war (CNBC)
Five Sticking Points Keeping Xi and Trump From a Trade Deal (Bloomberg)
As ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape Surfaced, Michael Cohen Changed Tune on Paying Stormy Daniels (W.S.J.)
Ryan Zinke blames ‘environmental terrorist groups’ for severity of California wildfires (The Washington Post)
Tencent’s Rout Has Wiped Out Over $175 Billion in Market Value (W.S.J.)
DoorDash Raises $250 Million as Delivery War With Uber Heats Up (Bloomberg)
Georgia police probe theft of $98,000 worth of ramen noodles (U.P.I.)